Events of 2003
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Events of 2003


Boating to Catalina with Eric and Laurie

In March, the weather was very beautiful in Southern California and our friends Eric and Laurie 2003_Catalina_9.jpg (21864 bytes) took us out on their boat to Catalina Island

During our crossing we saw a migrating whale. It was trying to escape all the attention that its huge body and tall spouts created. Several boats and jet skis raced out to observe the whale, but it kept moving further and further away.

Then we spent a very casual afternoon exploring Catalina with a golf cart. We went up and down the steep hills to some great views 2003_Catalina_8.jpg (64423 bytes), the Wrigley Memorial, and had a late lunch by the waterfront. It was a very relaxing day for us, away from the hustle and bustle of our lives.

Photo Gallery from Catalina

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On the boat...
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...heading out to sea...
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...and couldn't be happier to get away.
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The town of Avalon on Catalina
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Casino Point, where we have been quite often to go diving
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A gorgeous view from the hills
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Relaxing on the way back.


New Car Trip to Europe

At the end of 2002, Jana was looking for a new car, as her current lease was up this year. We looked at several car makers, and decided on a VOLVO S60 2.4T. In addition to being a safe, reliable, comfortable and fun car to drive, VOLVO's Overseas Delivery Program was attractive to us. It allowed us to order the car through our local dealer and pick it up at the VOLVO factory. In addition VOLVO provided us with 2 free airline tickets and a night stay at the Radisson in Gothenburg.

So, here we are, at the VOLVO Factory Delivery Center with Jana's new car 2003_EuropeTrip_01.jpg (32828 bytes). At first, we were hoping that VOLVO made a mistake and this car 2003_EuropeTrip_02.jpg (29224 bytes) would be ours, but after taken a first look at her new car, Jana fell in love with it 2003_EuropeTrip_03.jpg (37466 bytes).

Although VOLVO offered us lunch and a factory tour in the afternoon, we wanted to get going on our whirlwind tour through Europe. And we wanted to give the new car a thorough introduction to the real world out there, not the sheltered factory life. And what a real world it was. Scandinavia had one of the coldest springs in a while, and when we arrived it was freezing cold, snowing and icy rain. So, we tried to get out of there as fast as possible.

But before we left the cold, we stopped in Denmark and its capital Copenhagen. Our first stop, after crossing from Sweden to Denmark via a 20-minute ferry, was Kronborgslot (Castle of Kronborg) 2003_EuropeTrip_04.jpg (11561 bytes). It is said that this castle was Shakespeare's inspiration for "Hamlet". Although he had never been for a visit, Shakespeare was influenced by the legends of his days. This castle was used by Danish kings to collect tolls from ships crossing between Sweden and Denmark on their way to the rich cities of Northern Germany and the Baltic Sea.

Photo Gallery from Kronborgslot

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Entrance to the "Hamlet" Castle
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Jana listening attentively to the tour guide
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The Ballroom
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The Chapel
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...and the Dungeon

After spending a couple of hours at Kronborgslot, we continued our journey to Copenhagen. We stayed for a couple of nights at the Marriott, where the staff was very friendly and helpful. We received a very nice room, with a great view 2003_EuropeTrip_12.jpg (22098 bytes)    2003_EuropeTrip_11.jpg (21249 bytes) (unfortunately the weather was still not very nice).

The next day we explored Copenhagen. We walked from our hotel to the city hall, took a quick peak at the world-famous Tivoli amusement park (which we visited in the evening), down to the canals in the harbor, and watched the changing of the guards at the Royal Palace. The Marbled Cathedral, Churchill Park, and the Little Mermaid (inspired by the Christian Anderson story) were also on our list of attractions. After a short rest at the hotel we returned to the Tivoli where we had dinner and rode some of the old-style merry-go-rounds and roller coasters.

Photo Gallery from Copenhagen

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City Hall
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Detail on the city hall walls
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Beauty and the Beast
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Main entrance to Tivoli
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Jana conquering one of her biggest fears
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Nyhaven houses at the harbor canals
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Guards at the Royal Palace
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The Marbled Cathedral
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An old church in Churchill Park
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The Little Mermaid
(and some other figure on a rock )
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Side entrance to Tivoli
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Having fun with the dragon
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Evening at Tivoli
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The Peacock Stage
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The following day we left Copenhagen and drove south towards Germany. We crossed from Denmark to Germany with another ferry, and as the weather got better and better, we decided to have lunch in Hamburg 2003_EuropeTrip_28.jpg (27978 bytes). After lunch and another few hours of driving, we arrived in 2003_EuropeTrip_29.jpg (43394 bytes).

The same evening, we had a great Italian dinner in a historic warehouse. Well, nearly all houses in downtown Amsterdam are historic warehouses, as we learned the next day on our canal tour. We also strolled the streets of Amsterdam, and in addition to historic houses had to visit the unique Red Light District. Since it is not advisable to take pictures there at night, we can only present pictures we took the next day - which is all the better, unless we wanted to restrict our website to adults only.

After a quick tour of Amsterdam in the morning, we visited "miniature Holland" at Zaanse Schans. A large area has been setup and preserved to showcase traditional Dutch sights and activities. Windmills, drawbridges, cheese, wooden shoes, and canals - all elements were present here. We spent a couple of hours here, but another one of Jana's favorite sights in Holland called.

In the afternoon, we visited De Haar Castle. It is one of the best preserved castles in the Netherlands, and is used to this day as a summer entertainment residence by its owners. During the time that the family is not staying at the castle, it is open for tours, and so we took one.

Photo Gallery from Amsterdam, Zaanse Schans and De Haar Castle

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Historic warehouse on our canal tour in Amsterdam
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One of a few thousand houseboats on the canals
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The "Skinny Bridge"
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Amsterdam's Central Train Station
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Entrance to the Red Light District
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One of many entertainment houses
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Everything you ever wanted to know about it you can find here
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Symbol of the Red Light District - interesting during the day, but the real action is at night
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But let's not leave the other "sin" of Amsterdam unmentioned.
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Zaanse Schans
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Dutch Thumbelina
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There is just something about having big shoes
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Cheese factory
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Windmills to explore
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And we are exploring
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De Haar Castle
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Just a little modeling (although not as long as he did)
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Marc's beautiful bride-to-be
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Keukenhof was one of the main attractions for Jana 2003_EuropeTrip_53.jpg (60104 bytes). The world-famous tulip festival is held here every year in spring. Millions of tulips, daffodils, and many other flowers are exhibited. It is definitely advisable to visit in the mornings and on weekdays, as we saw long lines of people and cars when we exited.

It was a beautiful spring day, and we walked through all the various gardens, including an old-style green maze 2003_EuropeTrip_57.jpg (51303 bytes), the and expositions that Keukenhof offered. Unfortunately, this spring had been unusually cold, and most of the tulips in the outdoor gardens were not open. Jana was somewhat disappointed, but the smells 2003_EuropeTrip_65.jpg (44410 bytes) and colors 2003_EuropeTrip_66.jpg (85787 bytes) of the other flowers somewhat made up for the closed-up tulips.

Photo Gallery from Keukenhof

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Welcome to Keukenhof
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Although we are here for the tulips...
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...other things, such as big shoes...
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...and even bigger shoes...
2003_EuropeTrip_55.jpg (32749 bytes) well as water fountains...
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...white peacocks...
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...and windwills were explored.
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The perfect tulip!
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At the orchid expo
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Enjoying the gardens...
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...and lakes.
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A tulip field just outside Keukenhof

After visiting the flowers at Keukenhof we drove into Belgium, and spent two days in Antwerp and Bruges. We could not have found a better place to stay. The Hilton in Antwerp 2003_EuropeTrip_71.jpg (63919 bytes) was right in the middle of Antwerp's old town. The small, one-way streets made it a little challenge to get to the parking garage every time, but being able to stroll through historic plazas and rows of medieval houses made it all worthwhile.

We spent the afternoon in Antwerp by exploring the inner city. At first, we took a horse-drawn carriage ride 2003_EuropeTrip_76.jpg (29219 bytes) around town. Then we explored some of the sights by foot. We visited the cathedral 2003_EuropeTrip_78.jpg (28438 bytes) and the town's first castle 2003_EuropeTrip_79.jpg (50813 bytes). From there we saw some older houses 2003_EuropeTrip_80.jpg (51133 bytes), not realizing that one of them would serve as the drop off point for Jana's car a couple of days later. That evening we sat outdoors at a Greek restaurant that served excellent food, and the service was very personable.

The following day, we visited the medieval town of Bruges. The inner city has been preserved over many centuries, as it had stayed virtually untouched from any fires or wars. One of Bruges' main attraction was the town's Belfry 2003_EuropeTrip_82.jpg (36240 bytes). We climbed the 360+ steps, which started off being very wide, and got narrower and narrower, so that you had to squeeze against the walls to let people pass. But the reward was a spectacular view of the inner city 2003_EuropeTrip_85.jpg (65585 bytes) 2003_EuropeTrip_86.jpg (47303 bytes).

After this exercise, it was time for a little less strenuous sight seeing, and so we hopped onto one of the frequent canal tours. We passed under very old bridges 2003_EuropeTrip_83.jpg (61032 bytes) and saw most of the inner city attractions. Another, important element of the visit to Bruges was the need to shop for Christmas ornaments at the Käthe Wohlfahrt store 2003_EuropeTrip_90.jpg (48639 bytes).

That evening, we were also very happy to be able to meet with our friends Bettina and Daniel 2003_EuropeTrip_91.jpg (33028 bytes), who drove from Brussels to have dinner with us. It had been nearly 18 months since we last saw each other, and we had a great time at a very good Italian restaurant.

Photo Gallery from Antwerp and Bruges

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Antwerp's City Hall
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The Cathedral (note the McDonald's in front - you just can't escape them)
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The Groote Markt (the Large Market)
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The Cathedral and a fountain symbolizing Antwerp's name (which is a form of "hant werpen" - meaning hand throwing)
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Jana is ready to go...the horse...a different story.
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Bruges' Market Place
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Canal tour
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Well-preserved medieval house
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Famous Michelangelo statue "Madonna with Child"
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Marc's ice cream truck
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Daniel, Marc and Bettina
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Happy to be together and with our friends

Unfortunately, we had to drop the car off a couple of days earlier than planned due to Easter holidays in Germany. Marc's mom drove to Antwerp and picked us up for our last stop on our tour: Marc's family in Germany.

We took a scenic drive through the Ardennes in eastern Belgium, crossed over into Germany near Trier and made our way to Stuttgart. When we arrived, we were greeted by Leoni 2003_EuropeTrip_94.jpg (67583 bytes), Marc's niece, who had grown up to be an outgoing, energetic girl. The next day, we just played around 2003_EuropeTrip_95.jpg (66713 bytes) 2003_EuropeTrip_96.jpg (53827 bytes), and Leoni tried on clothes that we brought along 2003_EuropeTrip_98.jpg (32834 bytes). She will also be the flower girl at our wedding, and we had the flower girl dress with us for her to try on 2003_EuropeTrip_97.jpg (28200 bytes). She loved it, and Anke had to hide it very quickly, so that it stays in good shape for the wedding. Luckily for us, her friend Dennis 2003_EuropeTrip_99.jpg (28972 bytes) was there, so that her attention could be diverted from the dress.

The last day of our visit was Good Friday, and the family (Anke, Marc's mom, Lars, Marc and Jana) decided to move the Easter celebrations forward. So, we got up in the morning and started hunting for Easter eggs 2003_EuropeTrip_102.jpg (67639 bytes). But in this case, the Easter eggs were presents for all of us, although mostly for Leoni who had a lot of fun looking for them. She got her own personal suitcase for her trip to America and her first big-girl bike 2003_EuropeTrip_104.jpg (37421 bytes) (with no training wheels!).

In the afternoon, our friends Marcus and Gigi came to visit with their daughter Kim 2003_EuropeTrip_109.jpg (44311 bytes). After a short introductory period, the two girls started playing together as if they had known each other all their lives 2003_EuropeTrip_110.jpg (67779 bytes). We all sat down for coffee and cake, when Marc's aunt and uncle stopped by unexpectedly, and Marc's dad Frank also returned early from his ski vacation to spend some time with us. It became a large outdoor garden fest 2003_EuropeTrip_107.jpg (40431 bytes). The festivities ended in a scooter race down the street 2003_EuropeTrip_111.jpg (28088 bytes).


Photo Gallery from Easter Celebrations

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Leoni on the hunt for the "Easter Eggs" with assistance from Cindy
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And she found one.
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Marc's grandpa observes the hustle and bustle
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Leoni decides to be a painter
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Kim is learning roller skating from Gigi
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Leoni and Lars are taking the scooter for a spin
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Kim is trying it all by herself

We were sad to return from our whirlwind tour across 5 countries, but we were happy to be able to see our family and some of our friends.

Now, we are simply waiting for Jana's car to arrive in the United States and that we receive the call from our dealer "Your car is here".


Los Angeles County Museum of Art

In April, our friend Jim organized an outing to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) with us and our friends Vicky and James. A special exhibit for Ansel Adams' 100th birthday and "Sargent in Italy" were shown at the museum. We also took a general museum tour, walked through the permanent Japanese exhibits and went to lunch at the country's first "Marie Callendar's" restaurant on LA's Magical Mile. In between the museum and the restaurant are the La Brea Tar Pits, where many fossiled bones have been unearthed. It was funny to find such a prehistoric place in between the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles.

Photo Gallery from LACMA

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Jana and Jim are really looking forward to visiting the museum
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Entrance to the museum complex
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West wing of the museum complex
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One of several beautiful statues in the museum garden...and some metal thing in the background.
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The main section of the museum complex
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Just being happy to be out and about
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The Japanese House
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Inside the Japanese House
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One of the many Japanese exhibits
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Vicky, Jim, Jana and James
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Exhibit in the modern art collection
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One of Marc's favorite artists - Magritte - was also on exhibit here.
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The Japanese House at LACMA in the background. The La Brea Tar Pits in the foreground.
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Another section of the La Brea Tar Pits
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Lunch at the first Marie Callendar's


Thanksgiving Trip to Los Angeles

For Thanksgiving, we decided that it was time to explore our nearby tourist attraction - Los Angeles. We booked ourselves into the Beverly Hills Hilton and took a tour of all the major tourist attractions in the "City of the Angels".


Photo Gallery from Los Angeles Trip

Welcome to Beverly Hills

Beverly Hills City Hall (remember Beverly Hills Cop? )

The "Witches House" in Beverly Hills

The Beverly Hills Hotel

Hollywood Sign

Grauman's Chinese Theatre

Cary Grant's hands and footprints


Hollywood Walk of Stars

Again....Jana's Favorite

Two Beauties

Barbarian - Terminator - Governor Schwarzenegger

It was a must-see musical in Hollywood

Warner Brothers Studios

... and VIP Tour

The Man's a Mystery

Clothes from the set of "Friends"

This plaza has seen many movies

... and so has this squirrel

"The Standard" Hotel in Hollywood

Greystone Mansion

Fountain at Greystone Mansion

Rodeo Drive